Greetings everyone and welcome to another installment of the WE ARE INFINITE stories and giveaway! I'm so grateful to be able to do this and to share stories that remind us all of connection and our intrinsic worth.
Now, before we dive into today's tale, let's have a quick refresher on what's happenin' 'round here:
1. Contest is simple: you send me (email@example.com) your INFINITE STORIES and I post 'em. I also promote them, so if you want to include a link to a novel you wrote, an etsy shop, or other such awesomeness, then by all means, include that in your entry! I want to share the love!
2. INFINITE STORIES are tales that remind us of connection: ghost stories, past lives, prophetic dreams, a moment that changed your life, how you found faith, how you found love, how you recovered from heartache, a friend who saved your life, a dog that meant the world, a cat that knew too much, a feeling that spared you or a loved one from pain, a feeling that hooked up a pair of friends for marriage, kids, and life. Anything and everything goes!
All the details about what I'm looking for and how to play are found HERE.
3. Each story enters you for the grand prize. What is it, you ask? Well it's Amazon cash, artwork, and a book!
4. Don't have a story you want to share? No problem! Sharing information about the contest also constitutes an entry for the grand prize! More details about that are right HERE.
5. More questions? Check out the FAQ or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And last but not least, don't forget to check out the always-accumulating-ever-impressive-oh-so-powerful WE ARE INFINITE STORIES INDEX, where all the contest entries will be linked for you to peruse anytime you need a reminder that you are never, ever alone!
Today's entry is one of mine. I love the chance to be publicly grateful for all the incredible ways the people in my life and the Universe at large has helped me out over the years. I love bragging on other people. It's a thing.
I'll be posting my entries mixed in with others as the contest rolls on.
Deadline for all entries is FEBRUARY 8, 2015!
Much love, many thanks, and light and love to you and yours.
The Taylor Bug
I didn't major in English when I was in college, but I thought about it. A lot, actually, since my college boyfriend was going through the rigors of Shakespeare and Poetry 401 and 402 and all the other coursework leading up to an English degree which was on the way to a teaching position somewhere in the distant future.
I watched him toil away with sympathy. I hate Shakespeare. Studying Romeo and Juliet may very well be my own version of hell. This was one reason among dozens that I didn't go with English in undergrad.
But I'm getting off track, here.
I started my college career thinking I'd go to medical school. This was after the Great Engineering Phase that lasted from around birth to age sixteen or so, when my father left my mother, and he (thankfully) took his mantra with him: "Repeat after me: technical science degree."
Engineering was not, I repeat NOT, for me. And it only took a single semester for me to realize that dedicating my life to medicine was not for me, either. There were a lot of reasons. The least of which was that I'd have to take chemistry. The greatest of which was that somehow it had escaped my attention (a lot does, for the record) that becoming a doctor would mean dealing with sick people day in and day out. My psyche would not stand up to that challenge. It would lie down, cry uncle, and I'd become the cold, heartless bastard I'd never want to be.
Medicine's a beautiful, helpful, world-changing field, don't get me wrong. It's a calling I've answered in many lives, according to my Shaman, but not this one. I needed a break, yo.
So I switched my major from "General Humanities" to "Advertising and Business." In the end, my father's counseling to make a living before becoming a starving artist struck a nerve, rooted itself, and stayed there. I spent years in the marketing world, and I have the liver scarring to prove it. On the plus side, there was a time when nobody could drink my five-foot-three-one-hundred-ten-pounds-soaking-wet frame under the table.
Along this rainbow road of disastrous career choices, however, were many crossroads. Those other roads often pointed to ENGLISH in bright, neon signs, and I had many a crisis of the faith. When one is having a crisis, one needs to seek counselors. One of my counselors was a professor named Taylor*.
I met Taylor by landing in his European Lit class my freshman year. He was young, he was good looking, and he was polarizing among his students. You either loved or hated the guy pretty much upon first contact. The smarter the crowd, the more likely the chances students understood his, how should I put this delicately... Acerbic wit. Sarcasm was about the only language this man understood other than Olde English.
The class was like any other: a lot of reading, a lot of note taking, a lot of wishing the damned class wasn't held in a random building on the exact opposite side of campus from where the class I had before it was held.
That same year I had to endure a certain student-faculty function that was awkward, to say the least. It involved choosing a faculty "mentor" and basically taking him or her out to dinner. The dinner was paid for and provided by the university, but unfortunately, the conversation matter was not.
Students dreaded this event, myself included, and a veritable ton of my fellow female classmates chose Taylor as their mentor. I did not. I picked a professor I'd had from a previous semester. His had been the first class in which I'd been brave enough to turn in some of my short stories. I should probably mention, here, that I wasn't too open about the writing gig for years. The writing was for me, and sharing it wasn't on the original menu. Because of a very special friend that semester, I got brave. Because I was brave, that professor was the first to tell me that my writing was "stunning" and for God's sake get with it on the publishing, kid.
That kind of talk will get you anywhere; like invited to a terribly uncomfortable date night sponsored by the university.
Anyway, I went to the dinner, got through the meat of it, and had excused myself to the restroom. When I came out of the bathroom and rounded a corner, I stopped dead in my tracks and had that funny, fluttery feeling in my gut that indicated to me I should probably run now and ask questions later.
I really, really need to learn how to listen to that voice.
My date night professor was speaking to Taylor. They were deep in conversation when I finally approached, and I heard, "There she is. That's the girl I was telling you about. You two have got to talk."
I pasted a smile on my face. "Oh?" I asked.
"[Date professor] was telling me you write," said Taylor with an assessing gaze.
"Oh. Yeah. I do. Sometimes."
"What do you write?"
"Um. Horror and fantasy?" I asked, as though not sure and hoping somebody else would remember.
"Huh," Taylor said. "Me, too."
"See?" date professor said. "You two need to chat. That's what Taylor, here does. Made quite the name for himself, too."
Despite my inability to speak in anything but questions, Taylor invited me to enroll in one of his upper-level classes the following fall. "I'll hold a spot for you," he said, and I think I said, "Thanks?" and we left it at that.
You know, with me terrified and intimidated that somebody who had movie deals was interested in chatting me up about the worlds in my head. Never had my worlds felt so... disorganized. Cluttered. A mess of kindergarten blocks strewn out across the adult's formal living room.
I think I fretted about that class for the entire summer, when I wasn't busting my tail at my summer job. When enrollment came around, Taylor and I emailed back and forth a few times. I liked the way he was completely casual about asking me to send him some of my work. It was sort of nice that he didn't think it would send me into a coma of panic. It was as though the guy knew I needed to get used to this whole sharing-my-words thing, and might as well start with him.
So I bought Taylor's books. I read them. They were good. I didn't need the accolades on the covers to confirm that for me. I also didn't need a good friend of mine doing a spit-take when I told my friend Taylor's name. "You're being mentored by WHO?!?!"
Yeah. That totally helped the whole nervous thing. Abso-freakin-lutely.
Soon enough, the fall arrived. As fate would have it, my boyfriend was also enrolled in that same upper level class. He was very proud, if somewhat confused, by his business-major sophomore level girlfriend getting to walk to class with him. The class wasn't large, maybe twenty students or so, and I quickly made a shocking discovery:
Most people hated Taylor.
This didn't seem to bother Taylor in the slightest. He taught what he needed to teach and he did it in a way I thought was amusing and insightful, but apparently my opinion was not universally shared. Taylor didn't bat an eye the day that girl stalked out of the classroom with "Asshole" as her parting shot over one narrow shoulder. Nor did he lose his characteristic smirk when our numbers dwindled after the Final Drop deadline for unloading unwanted classes.
I learned a lot from Taylor. What's more, he seemed to like my work. I was emailing him pieces of it, and he was handing those pieces back to me in class along with my daily quizzes. His edits were made in neat blue ink, and they taught me a megaton about writing that all the studying of all the Sounds and the Furies in the damned world couldn't manage.
After that class, I took more of his classes. He always made room for me. He even asked me once, when trying to decide which section of a course he wanted to teach, what class time would be better for me. I laughingly told him Tuesdays and Thursdays would be awesome. He picked that time slot, I signed up, and I got to keep sending him my stuff and getting it back with blue edits. I'd drop by his office hours, and he signed the copies of his books that I owned. We talked about foods we hated and the drawings his niece was making in preschool, and pretty soon, I think we were friends. He believed in me, and it was a time in my life when I very much needed the belief.
So there I was, learning about writing by doing it while also managing to turn in all my essays on time. Everything was copacetic until the dreams started. The first one knocked me out of bed. Literally.
It was about eight a.m., and the first round of my alarms had gone off. I'd kicked the boyfriend out of bed to go shower, and I was buried under my blankets. I dozed off, and I had the strangest dream. I was back in that first class I took of Taylor's, and I was standing in front of everyone with a clipboard.
"Please," I said in the dream. "He's sick and we should do something."
"Fuck him," said the girl who'd stormed out one day because she found Taylor's sarcasm offensive. "Let him die for all I care. You're on your own."
"But guys, he's really sick. This isn't a joke. I'm not messing around."
"What do you want us to do about it?" asked another guy who'd not been a Taylor fan.
"Just flowers. We just need to send flowers."
"Where?" asked the girl.
"The hospital. He's in the hospital and he's sick. He can't breathe. Please. We need to do—"
I encountered the feeling of gravity and the sickening sensation of falling just in time to grab the edge of the bed and not fall to my doom. I slept in a loft bed. It was a long way down to that carpet-over-concrete ground. I was still dazed and confused when the boyfriend emerged, toweling off his hair, and told me he saved me some hot water.
Thinking the dream was damned weird but dismissing it, I went about the business of getting ready and going to class. I had one of Taylor's classes that day, and I got there my usual ten minutes early. I sat in my seat, listening to my MP3 player and watching students lumber in.
When class time struck, Taylor wasn't in front of us with a stack of papers and a mouthful of snark.
When fifteen minutes had gone by, people started to shrug, get up, and leave.
When twenty minutes had gone by, a woman poked her head into the classroom. "Are you Taylor's class?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. My palms were clammy and my head was spinning like I'd just been shot out of a rifle.
"He won't be here today. Or any other day this week or next." She got a serious look as though she wanted to deliver news as fast and directly as possible. "He's in the hospital. He has pneumonia."
I was the last person to leave the room.
I didn't send flowers, but I did send emails. I felt like I'd told this man so much that was personal to me – the words and the worlds. But there was no way I could say, "Hey, man, I dreamed you were sick, and it turned out to be true. Discuss in 500 words or less."
Taylor returned to the classroom a week and a half later, and he looked like hell. He got behind on returning papers to us, including the blue edits on the latest draft of my stories. I wanted to tell him not to worry about it. I wanted to ask him what the hell was wrong.
But I couldn't. It wasn't my place. I was just a student who was maybe a friend. So I didn't ask. And the next semester, Taylor was gone. He transferred to another university in a different state. He didn't say goodbye, and he didn't return to me a story he had promised to edit and get back to me.
The situation was unfinished. Unresolved and dangling. I didn't know what to do, so I didn't do anything. I kept going to classes.
The following summer, I was taking a class at a university closer to home. One completely typical Tuesday, I was driving home and a massive white van rumbled to a stop next to me.
On the side of the van was a single word in block letters: TAYLOR.
I raced home, knowing something had happened. Turned out I was right: I had an email. It was from Taylor, who was finally getting back to me on those edits. He told me he was sorry for being late, and he told me what was wrong.
He was sick. The cure was trying to kill him. There was no ultimate path to health.
He was sorry.
I also kept emailing him. The response times varied. There were moments when I definitely wondered what the hell I was doing, emailing someone long after I was out of his class and he was out of my life, but I did it anyway. Feeling awkward was a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Years went by. I got married and moved and started drinking a lot because of my career choices. I emailed him all about that, too. Sometimes he wrote back. Other times he didn't. That was okay. I continued to write. It was like an itch; a compulsion. It was a phenomenon of such urgent importance that it earned a title in this house:
The Taylor Bug. It'd get under my skin, and I had to do something about it, or I'd go mad. So, I wrote long-winded emails that had no ultimate point other than, one hoped, to make him smile.
I never told him about that dream with the flowers. Nor did I tell him that I still dreamed. Most of the time they were benign; floating bits of rif-raff that didn't have enough force to shake me off the mattress. Other times, they were not.
One night I was out West visiting a friend, and I had another doozy. I was at a party, and I saw Taylor. I called his name, raced after him, and we ended up outside on a deck. He went down the stairs to the lawn, and I followed as fast as I could. It was a cloudless, full moon night, and everything was shades of gray. A tall line of juniper trees marched along the back side of the property, and I followed Taylor to them. I chased him along the row of tree trunks and came around the corner. I saw water. But Taylor was gone.
When I woke up, again, nearly falling out of bed, I raced to my laptop. I fretted over what in the hell to say and finally I went with the truth. "I dreamed of trees and water. Are you all right?"
It took two weeks to get an answer.
The night I dreamed, he'd been committed after nearly driving his car off a bridge. He didn't comment about my dream, but he did comment extensively about his life. We went back to emailing for a while. I sent him a copy of my first book. I told him thank you. I told him what he meant to the student version of myself and the current version as well.
He said so often as a professor, one never knows what happens to students. He was grateful he got to follow me along.
And then... one day...
It all stopped.
The bug vanished, never to return, and it still hasn't. I'd be worried if I wasn't relieved. The dreams felt like prying and the actions after the dreams were always hard as hell.
What do you do when you know something about someone you have no reasonable right to know?
The choices are tricky.
A few weeks ago, I looked him up. He's writing again. He looks healthy in the pictures. He speaks honestly of his illness, its toll, and what he's had to do to overcome. I think he's inspiring people, much as he inspired me.
I like to think the dreams came to me because something in what I was doing in response to them was helping. Maybe it was giving him somebody to talk to who was so outside his realm that what he said didn't matter. Maybe it was distraction or maybe I really did get a smile or two.
Maybe I just got to show him that he matters, and that him continuing to stay here, with us, matters.
I'm not sure, but I'm grateful for the Taylor Bug, and should it ever bite again, I've got my email ready.
*Names have been changed.
Extra: Brilliant Comic by Taylor Mail and Zen Pencils:
Fantastic and true.
Light, love, and connection,
Kelly Wyre enjoys reading and writing all manner of fiction, ranging from horror to romance. She used to work in advertising but is now happily chained to her writing desk and laptop. She believes she's here to tell stories and to connect people with them. She's written several novels, novellas, and short stories and has no plans on stopping anytime soon.
Kelly relishes the soft and cuddly and the sharp and bloody with equal amounts of enthusiasm. She's a coffee addict, an avid movie lover, a chronic night owl, and she loves a good thunderstorm. Currently Kelly resides in the southeastern United States.
Available January 13, 2015
Meet Me at the Gates by Kelly Wyre
Outer Banks bookstore owner Hyacinth Silver Fox has a secret millennia in the making: her soul was magically entwined with another, and at night she dreams of every lifetime they've ever spent together. The rules of their magic are simple: Hydee always knows her lover, but he, or she, doesn't remember her. It's up to Hydee to find and make her soulmate see they are destined for each other, and this lifetime is no different, but there's one problem: her soulmate is Theo Monk, heartthrob actor and Hollywood's sometime-infamous badboy. Hydee's hope of reuniting is wearing thin, but she has no idea how dire the situation really is.
Because meanwhile in California, Theo Monk is losing his mind. Anxiety and paranoia rule his life, along with his on-again-off-again girlfriend and her entourage. When fear and frustration push him to an edge, Theo cuts and runs as far from his problems as he can without knowing Fate's giving him one last shot to unite with the only person who can help him. Hydee and Theo must save one another before hope runs out and Hydee's despair and Theo's fear keep them apart forever.